THE BUDGIE PROFILE
The budgie, or parakeet, is among the smallest of the parrot species commonly kept as pets. They are also the most popular pet bird by a large measure, due in part to the fact that they are quite affordable. These small parrots are exceedingly friendly and easy to tame. While they can sometimes be difficult to understand, they are also quite capable of mimicking human speech.
The budgie and other parakeet species are native to Australia, where they are still found in huge flocks in grasslands. These wild species, however, are slightly smaller than the birds normally found in the pet trade, which have now undergone decades of captive breeding.
There are two types of budgies common to the pet trade, the Australian budgie or parakeet and the English budgie. The Australian variety is the one most commonly found, while the type often seen in exhibitions and shows is the larger English budgie. English budgies have a different appearance than Australian budgies but both types belong to the same species.
The normal wild colouration of a budgie is a light green with black bars on their wings, back, and head. Typically mature females have a tan or beige cere (the fleshy part around the nostrils) and the males have a bluish cere. Young budgies also have bar markings on their foreheads that recede with age and their eyes typically have dark irises that gradually become grey with age. Through selective breeding in the pet trade, a huge variety of colours and patterns are available, including violet, blue, yellow, pied, albino, and the classic neon green.
7 to 15 years in captivity, although some may live up to 20 years
Budgies are gentle and docile birds. They are also very easy to tame, especially if acquired at a young age. Pairs of birds make good company for each other, but when in living pairs and entertaining one another, they may not bond as well with their owners or mimic speech as fluently. Budgies are also very playful, active, and quieter than some other types of parrots.
CARING FOR THE BUDGIE
Unlike other parrots, budgies are widely available, so care is necessary when selecting a bird. It is best to choose a young budgie that has been handled regularly if you want to easily tame your budgie. You can expect to pay more for a hand-reared or very young bird, but it may be worth the extra cost since it will make the hand-taming process quicker and easier.
Look for a bird that is bright, alert, and active. The feathers should be smooth, shiny, and lay flat on the body. The vent should be clean, dry, and free of fecal matter. The scales on the feet should be smooth, the nails and beak should be smooth and not overgrown, and the nostrils should be clear and clean with no clumping of the feathers surrounding them.
Budgies are active and playful and should have a large cage that allows room for toys, sleeping, eating, and flight. Minimum dimensions for a cage are 20 inches long by 12 inches deep by 18 inches high, but bigger is always better. The spacing of the cage bars should be half an inch or less to avoid escapes and to prevent your bird from getting stuck. Horizontal cage bars offer the best opportunity for climbing and exercise. Place at least a couple of perches at different levels, with enough space for your budgie to comfortably move between them. Offering a variety of perch sizes, shapes, and textures will also help keep your budgie's feet in good shape. A nest to sleep in, dishes for food and water, various toys, and things to chew should all fit inside the cage.
Even if they have a large cage, budgies will still need playtime and socialisation opportunities outside of the cage. Flight is very natural and important for a bird, but you should only allow your budgie to fly in a very secure and safe area. Like most parrots, budgies are social birds, and thus many owners keep budgies in pairs so that they can entertain one another. Budgies seem to be happiest when kept in pairs. A single bird can be fine as long as you are able to spend a significant amount of time interacting with them on a daily basis.
Variety is the key to a healthy diet for your budgie since these birds are diverse foragers in the wild. Seeds can be a nutritious part of a budgie's diet, but because these are high in fat, seeds should only make up a portion of the diet. Pelleted diets are often a good choice for birds, as they are nutritionally balanced. Seeds and pellets can be fed in combination, but other foods should also complement the diet, including a variety of fresh vegetables (carrots, broccoli, corn, spinach, beans, etc.) and fruit.
Have patience with your budgie anytime you introduce a new food, as they can be scary to birds. Sprouted seeds are also an excellent way to add variety to your bird's diet but avocados, chocolate, sugar, and salt must be avoided. A cuttlebone can be provided as a source of calcium, but grit is not needed and can be harmful if your budgie eats too much.
Free flying time is critical to the budgie; try to offer several hours each a day in a room that is safe. A large houseplant can be a great playground. Your budgie needs a variety of toys to offer exercise and mental stimulation. It's best to rotate the toys every month or so to prevent them from growing bored.